I have been writing my weekly blog for well over two years now. I created my blog as a means to consistently provide my experience and expertise on proper basketball strength & conditioning. That quickly morphed into sharing insights and perspectives on issues and topics that would have a positive impact on the lives of players and coaches off the court as well. Very rarely have I “recycled” older posts. I like my material to be new and fresh. But this week is an exception. I dusted off a blog I wrote exactly one year ago. I didn’t do this out of laziness. I did it because of how strongly I believe in the message. Players, I hope you read this carefully. Coaches, I hope you share it with your players. I made several updates to the original post. So, without further adieu, here is Brand You 2.0! 

What are your favorite brands?
Nike? Apple? Facebook? BMW? Vitamin Water?
What traits come to mind when you think about your favorite brands?
Elite? Durable? Stylish? Performance? Quality?
Do you consider people to be brands? Well they are! The most obvious is Michael Jordan (heck, his company is called the Jordan Brand). What about Donald Trump, Jay-Z, and LeBron James?  Do you consider them brands? I certainly do. Why? Because the characteristics that come to mind when you think of them as individuals are automatically associated with the product they endorse. Make sense? You won’t see Donald Trump endorsing Wrangler Jeans.
If you want to be successful, both on and off the court, you need to start viewing yourself as a brand as well. Think of it as “brand you.” Everything you do affects your brand in some way (either positively or negatively). The way you dress, the way you act, and even the way you play. You need to take your brand very seriously if you want to make it to the top. And just to clarify, I believe in being authentic. I am not telling you to act like someone else or to try to please others just for the sake of it. You need to be real. You need to be genuine. You need to believe in your own brand, and equally important, set the standards of your brand. You need to decide what characteristics you find most important and then live up to them every day of your life.
Is your goal to play college basketball? Then carry yourself as if you already do! Hold yourself to the same standard of excellence as an elite college basketball player would… now… don’t wait.  Carry yourself with the same honor, character, humbleness and work ethic as college superstars Evan Turner (Ohio State) or Wesley Johnson (Syracuse). Those two represent everything that is right with college basketball. Evan and Wesley know the importance of their brand. And now both are surefire lottery picks.   

Are you in college trying to make it to the NBA? Do the same thing. It is going to take much more than a killer crossover and a money jump shot to make it in the league. Thousands and thousands of guys have that. You need to separate yourself from the pack. You need to make your brand stand out. While the LeBron’s, Kobe’s, and CP3’s most certainly have extraordinary talent, they also have charisma, professionalism, the ability to be coached, and an unmatched passion for the game. Their brand is bigger than just their skills. 

This past year, I read two outstanding books which I highly recommend to any player or coach. One was Money Players by Marc Isenberg and the other was Me 2.0 by Dan Schawbel.  Both are invaluable resources and were the inspiration for this blog. Both books can be purchased at Amazon.com.
What do you want people to think about your brand? What would you want them to say when describing your brand? Hard working or lazy? Coachable or a hard-headed? Energy giver or energy taker?
What makes your brand unique on the court? Are you a great passer? Or are you a ball hog? Are you a lock-up defender? Or do you only play one end of the floor? Are you a good teammate? Or are you only focused on getting yours?

What makes your brand special off the court?  Are you a good student? Or are you a class clown and a jackass? Do you do what is right when no one is watching? Or are you always looking for a short-cut or an easy way out? Nike cares about what people think of their brand. So does Apple. So does Vitamin Water. So does every other big time brand. So should you.
If you don’t think these things matter, then honestly, you don’t have a clue. They matter more than you know. What people (coaches, teachers, scouts, parents, friends, etc.) think about your brand has a direct impact on the opportunities you will have in life. You only buy brands you like and trust, right? Why would people be any different?  Would you buy an iPod if there was a good chance it would break? Would you drink Gatorade if it tasted like vinegar? Absolutely not!  So why would a college coach want to give you a scholarship or an NBA general manager give you a contract if they didn’t have full confidence in your brand (both on and off the court)? The answer is… they wouldn’t.
Still don’t think your actions affect your brand’s reputation? Ask Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods appeared to be one of the classiest, most respected, and most honorable professional athletes in the history of sports. But through his own selfish actions, he has disgraced his brand, suffered irreversible damage to his image, and permanently tarnished his legacy. Not to mention, he lost millions of dollars and the respect of millions of fans. His brand (obviously) isn’t what it used to be.
On the flip side, your actions can drastically improve your brand’s reputation. As most of you know, I had the pleasure of working the Kevin Durant when he was in high school. KD went from being a high school All-American to the College Player of the Year to the NBA Rookie of the Year to an NBA All-Star and NBA scoring leader in only 5 years. The kid can flat out play. But do you think Nike signed him to a $70 million contract, fresh out of college, just because of his basketball talent? Absolutely not. They signed KD because they knew his brand would be an asset to the Nike brand. KD’s brand, above and beyond his unbelievable basketball ability, is about passion, work ethic, respect, humbleness and professionalism. And I can say, without hesitation, KD has exemplified those characteristics since the day I met him. KD has always known the importance of his brand.
Everything you do reflects your brand – everything! The way you dress, your email etiquette, your Tweets, your table manners, your voicemail message, your eye contact… the list goes on and on.
I roll my eyes when a player sends me an incoherent email full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes asking me what they need to do to be successful on the court. Especially when it is sent from ChocolateAdonis@aol.com (which actually happened!). How am I supposed to take them seriously? If you don’t have the personal pride to use spell check or punctuation, why would I think you have the discipline to follow my recommendations? Please don’t waste my time. Same goes for someone who has a 5-minute rap song full of foul language on their outgoing voice message or a Facebook profile full of inappropriate pictures. These folks just don’t get it. 
Research has shown it takes less than 30 seconds for someone to form a lasting impression of you. If you make a poor first impression, it can take up to 21 follow-up impressions to change that person’s opinion. First impressions are a big deal. Remember, whether it is right or wrong, people will always judge you and judge your brand. What do you want them to think? 
One of my favorite stories of first impressions and building a strong brand is when Michael Redd met Jerry Colangelo. Back in 2006, USA Basketball was in the initial stages of putting together the “Redeem Team” to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Jerry Colangelo (managing director of USA Basketball) arranged individual interviews with every potential player.  He wanted to meet with them prior to deciding who to put on the team. He wanted to look them in the eye to get a sense of their character and commitment. Michael Redd drove straight from his practice with the Milwaukee Bucks to a hotel in Chicago for the interview. When Mr. Colangelo answered the door, Michael was standing there in his team warm-ups with a garment bag on his shoulder. After shaking hands, Michael asked if he could be excused to use the restroom. When he emerged a few minutes later, he was dressed in a full suit and tie. Now he was ready for the interview. Now he was ready to show Mr. Colangelo what his brand was about.
Michael Redd’s actions landed him on the team that eventually won the gold medal. Putting on his suit and tie for the interview showed respect and professionalism. You see, Michael Redd gets it. He understands the importance of his brand. It is not an accident he plays in the NBA and has an Olympic gold medal.

I took a page out of that book last month when I went to discuss the available strength & conditioning coach position with the basketball program at DeMatha Catholic High School.  Even though it was an informal, preliminary meeting with a friend of mine (I have known Coach Mike Jones for years), I dressed in full suit and tie. I wanted to show how serious I was about the opportunity. I wanted to show respect. I didn’t want to take anything for granted. I even bought a new tie in DeMatha’s school colors and provided a full color, bound Power Point presentation on what I could do for the program. I left no stone unturned.

It must have worked, because less than two weeks later I was taking the team through these workouts:



Lastly, after months of anticipation, our 12-Week Basketball Off-Season Strength & Power Program is finally here! You can purchase it at http://Shop.StrongerTeam.com.

This program outlines exactly what you need to do to maximize your basketball specific strength training and power workouts - exercise by exercise, day by day, week after week. There are dozens of digital pictures and exercise descriptions, all of which use standard equipment (dumbbell, free weights, bodyweight, etc.) to make sure it is easily adaptable to your specific weight room.

Our 12-Week Basketball Off-Season Agility & Conditioning Program will available soon! It was designed to be done in conjunction with the strength & power portion.
As always, if I can ever be a resource to you for your program, please let me know. I would be honored to help. You can email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com.

Train hard.  Train smart.

Alan Stein